Pardon My Tubeworms

Posted in Under the Sea on April 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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You’re going to think that you’re seeing double today. Going through my images from dives at Barracuda Point  and The Eel Garden  last Saturday near Pig Island,  I found some vaguely amusing near-twins. Each pair has similarities, but not the same ones. Stick with me while I build a mountain out of a molehill.

The humble Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)  is an easy photographic subject unless you get too close. If you do, it will disappear down inside its house more quickly than the human eye can follow. Now it’s there; now it’s not:It seems like the same “now”. All that’s left is a puff of dust.

Here’s another Tubeworm:Both of these shots have nice detail if you click to enlarge. The “feathers” are incredibly complex.

The next twins are of Coral (Acropora hyacinthus).  I think that both species are the same, but some corals are impossible to tell apart without examining the microsopic structure of the skeletal framework:The shot above is from directly overhead. You can see a hint of the spiral growth form which is characteristic of many plate corals.

Here is another colony shown more from the side. Again, you can see vague spirals:The colour of the two colonies was different, as you can see. In the second image you can see the variations of brightness caused by the refraction of sunlight through the waves at the surface of the water. When you see this live, it is constantly changing. It reminds me a little of disco lights.

Lets take a break with a prettier image. This is Kate:Kate lives in Madang and works with the Fred Hollows Foundation the Vision Statement of which reads, “Our vision is for a world where no one is needlessly blind, and Indigenous Australians enjoy the same health and life expectancy as other Australians.” They need to work on that one, as they also do important work in other places.

One of my favourite little critters is the Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco).  They are famously cute and give one good fun trying to get them to hold still long enough for a shot. This little fellow seems to be missing his fourth dorsal ray. Maybe it was bitten off. You can see it better in the shot that comes after this one:They scamper about within a small area as their google-eyes stay fixed on you. You end up anchored in the same spot, swinging the camera wildly around hoping for quick snap. The lighting in the shot above was very poor. The sun was behind a cloud and coming slightly from the other side from where I was shooting.

Here is the difference that good light makes:The sun was full on and coming from behind me. Good lighting makes these little jewels glow.

What a difference a ray makes.

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Make the Scene, Man – at the Reef!

Posted in Under the Sea on February 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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Since I’m enjoying a temporary cease-fire which was prompted by an all-night connection to the web which updated my computer for the first time since last September, I’ll dispense with dispatches from the FEBA (that’s Forward Edge of the Battle area for the militarily-challenged) until or when the aforementioned connection evaporates once again. One can’t stay cranky all the time. Well, one can,  and some do,  but it’s simply not good for the soul.

To display my return to joviality and whimsy let me show you a delightful, if somewhat dangerous, juxtaposition of objects that I discovered only yesterday in a technical facility which I shall, out of pity, not name:

Using all of my vast training in covert operations, I boldly snapped this shot while nobody was looking. In fact, as near as I could ascertain, nobody was doing anything at all. Notice that it was nearly quitting time anyway.

What I propose here is a Caption Contest. The rules are simple:  (1) The caption must begin with, “In case of fire”, (2) You must leave your entry as a comment here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi,  (you can also leave a comment on my status post on Facebook, but the official entry must be here), (3) There will be no losers. Everybody who enters will automatically get first place, (3) You may not use any of the seven words that George Carlin made famous, no matter how funny they are (sorry, but this makes it much more challenging anyway), (4) I can make up more rules whenever I want.

I may choose, if I feel like it, to ignore rule number 1, but your caption had better be very  funny!

If you want to argue any of the rules meet me on Facebook. My handle is CrazyByChoice.  I’ll take on all challengers with one lobe of my brain tied behind my back. Also, feel free to break any of the rules, as rules are, as any fool knows, made to be broken.

Now I can hear the mumbling out there, “Hey, man. What about the Reef Scene, man? I wanna make the scene, man.” Quit your whining, I’m coming to it.

Well, here’s a reef scene In Your Face, man! These Orange Finned Anemonefish (Amphiprion chrysopterus)  are doing the boogaloo for you:Oh, to be so carefree! The only thing that you have to worry about is something coming along out-of-the-blue, so to speak, and eating  you.

While skulking about the reef surreptitiously snapping  images of innocent critters frolicking I caught this sneaky little Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  attempting to hide from me:Fat chance, dwarf!

And now, I shall attempt the unattemptable. I shall attempt to show you what can not be shown. These juvenile Three-Spot Dascyllus (Dascyllus trimaculatus)  are unphotographable:(Much like My Funny Valentine) If you’re puzzled, welcome to the meeting. They are the little black ones with two white spots. If you’re wondering why they are called “Three-Spot”, welcome again. What’s funnier yet is the adults are dismal grey fish with no spots at all. Nevertheless, the point is that I’ve never been able to get a shot of them because they are so very, very black. My new Canon G11 (blah, blah, blah) has made it nearly possible. Hurrah for Canon. What’s next? World Peace?

Well, we’ve time for a couple of more fillers. Here’s another A. chrysopterus  looking a little lost. He was just about to ask me, “Blubbla bulubluba bla?” when he noticed that I was not a fish:Hence the look of befuddlement. Things were getting a little swishy there on top of the reef. I had only about a metre of water above my head.

And finally, because you’ll never  get tired of looking at female Purple Anthea (Pseudanthias tuka),  here are some for you:Well, never say never.

Is it just me or is there something terribly wrong with that saying? I mean, does it make any kind of sense at all? If you can never say never then how can you ever say never say never?

Must be the drugs. Sudafed and Cipro make me dizzy.

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Care for a Little Wine With Your Fish?

Posted in Under the Sea on February 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Four days of drugging myself unmercifully have relieved me of most of the symptoms of what seemed, at first, to be a bad cold. Not so. Feeling much worse each day, I eventually went for the Cipro. One day later, I was nearly human again. On Saturday, I felt well enough for a little dive at Pig Island  on top of the reef. Despite poor lighting, I got some nice pictures.

TELIKOM, having “fixed” my phone for exactly two hours until the dial tone disappeared once again, forced me to drive to the office this morning to access the web. Not a bad thing, since I got this lovely shot of the Finisterre Mountains from the balcony of the Coastwatchers Motel restaurant:So, what’s this about wine? Well, I saw some Sea Grapes (Caulerpa racemosa)  on my dive and hacked them into the title of the post, that’s all:It’s a kind of sea weed, so I wouldn’t expect a fine vintage from them. I’m not even sure of the species name. The info on the web is a little confusing.

The beautiful little Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  is always fun to shoot, that is, if you can get them to stay still long enough:They tend to flit from perch to perch about every five seconds as long as you are close to them. Fortunately, that is enough time to grab focus and click.

Here’s one that you haven’t seen here before, because they usually hide so well that you can see only their bright blue eyes. They are Split-Banded Cardinalfish (Apogon compressus):The water was nice and clear at Pig Island,  but the light was poor, since there was an overcast. Still, I managed a pretty reef scene in which I can identify about a dozen different species:These Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus)  are exasperating. It’s almost impossible to get a side-on shot of one. They always try to keep their tails toward you:I suppose that that is a good escape technique, since it presents the smallest visible area for a predator to lock in on.

You’ve seen the Arc Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)  here many times, but you’ll have to see another one now, since I never get tired of shooting them:I’m sure that there are prettier fish in the sea.

However, for today, this one will have to take the winner’s place.

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Heart of the Hunter – Part 1

Posted in Under the Sea on November 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m fairly frantically trying to balance my work between herding a bunch of ornery computers, writing an article for Niugini Blue,  and doing my daily posts on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  There’s just no help for it. I’ve got to combine some tasks to serve dual purposes or sink into the dreaded black hole of “missed deadline” which means embarrassment and lost of precious moolah. So, I’m killing two of the three birds with one bullet (which is my not so clever way of slipping into the subject matter) by giving you a preview of the images that I’m submitting and a taste of the text. This literary snake-oil will be delivered to you in two or three parts.

My Gradpa taught me to hunt. Marksmanship was first on the list of essential skills, so, back when ammo was dirt cheap, I fired thousands of rounds at teeny-weeny targets until I was up to Granddad’s standards, which were pretty high. All this practice served me well when I went for Army training, as I qualified Expert on every weapon with which I was trained (and a few that I wasn’t supposed to be using).

Grandpa also schooled me in the psychology of the hunt, with which I became obsessed. Unfortunately, this involved a lot of blood loss, mostly to the critters at which I was shooting. I never thought much about it at the time. It was just hunting – everybody did it. Eunie and I survived a whole summer in Montana on the huge jackrabbits that I shot (she bagged a few – she is also an excellent marksman).

Anyway, not to get carried away, I had a few bad experiences with beautiful creatures whose designated bullets had not landed precisely. They tell tales about animals screaming when horribly wounded. I’m here to tell you that it can happen. It’s something that you don’t want to hear. So, I left the killing behind, cold turkey, as it were, but the other, less bloody psychological elements of the hunt have never left me.

What to do? Shoot them with a camera, of course! I didn’t dream this up. I remember when I was a kid seeing newsreels of big game hunters who had sickened of the killing and were mounting expensive cameras with huge telephoto lenses on rifle stocks. They were making a pretty drastic statement at a time when most people were fairly blasé about the whole matter of hunting. I admired these people.

No, I’m not going to unload the whole article on you here. It will run upwards of 1,600 words and I don’t expect anybody to read a post that long. So, let me get to my most recent ‘kills’. It’s illegal in most civilised places now to kill a hawk, but it’s there’s no problem with bagging a Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  with your camera:

Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)This is by far the best shot that I’ve done of this species. You’ve seen many Hawkfish here before (use the search box), but this is the one, of this species, that will define my best work, at least until I get better gear.

Moving from the sublime to the clownish, this little fellow (or lady – who knows) is a Spotted Sand Diver (Trichonotus setiger):

Spotted Sand Diver (Trichonotus setiger)They are fiendishly difficult to photograph, because they do exactly what the name implies. One second it’s there on your screen, the next instant it’s dived head-first into the sand, leaving only a puff of pale powder drifting along in the current. I was trying very hard to get a black background in this shot, but I could not get low enough. If I had, you could better see the long, slender filaments extending from its dorsal fin.

Somebody out there is thinking, “Enough with the Spinecheeks, already!”, but I’m not giving up until I’ve done it perfectly. So here’s yet another  Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)I’m getting close to what I want. If you click to enlarge you can probably make out some scales and you should definitely be able to see the lateral line.

Here’s one that you have seen here only once before. This is a much better shot of the Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus):

Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus)I’d call this thing absurdly beautiful. That doesn’t mean a lot, since the ocean is chock full of absurdly beautiful things.

I’m not much of a sportsman when hunting with my camera. Sitting ducks are also on the list of endangered beasties. Nudibranchs are ridiculously easy to shoot. The don’t move very fast, maybe a metre a day. All you have to do is find them. That’s the crunch. It’s a treat to find such a nice specimen of a fairly common nudi, (Phyllidia coelestis):

Nudibranch (Phyllidia coelestis)Well, that’s enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the grisly trophies of my weekly ritual slaughter of the innocents of the sea.

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